Posted by: Kim | October 10, 2014

Happy “Electronic Records Day”

October 10th is officially electronic records day!

Electronic records are things we make all the time – our emails, our texts, our computer files, our banking transactions, our digital photos, and so on. You’ve probably generated a variety of electronic records today alone. On an average day I make a bunch of emails, a text or two, possibly a digital photograph, and lots of general office computer files (word-processed documents, spreadsheets, charts, etc.). Social media posts count too!

So, what is Electronic Records Day all about? It’s a day sponsored by the Council of State Archivists to raise awareness about digital records and the crucial need to preserve them. With paper materials (or photographs) you can file them away. Provided they don’t get water, heat, insect, or fire damage they’re likely to last quite a long time. With digital materials you might lose access to them immediately (file corruption), several years from now, or a decade or two from now.  Archivists have to work quickly and relatively frequently to make sure digital materials are saved.

Managing electronic records is like caring for a perpetual toddler: they need regular attention and care in order to remain accessible. – Council of State Archivists, “10 Reasons Why Electronic Records Need Special Attention” (2014).

Digital Decay and Obsolescence

Computing technologies change much faster than photograph and paper forms. The University of Klagenfurt in Austria has prepared a timeline showing the history of information storage. Things didn’t change very rapidly at all until the 1960s! If you’d prefer a more visual timeline, Dell has created an infogaphic of data storage history.

There is a Flickr pool where you can see what digital decay (also called “bit rot”) looks like: The Atlas of Digital Damages. You may have already noticed this with some of your files. I know that I have, unfortunately.

Personal Digital Recordkeeping

You can be a “citizen archivist” and take care of your own digital files. Here’s a video from the Library of Congress explaining why digital preservation is important and how to get started in preserving your own materials:

Digital preservation at home takes the following basic steps:

  1. Identify (figure out what you’ve got and in what format)
  2. Decide (how much do you want to keep?)
  3. Organize (make sure everything you’re keeping is named, described, and organized on your computer)
  4. Backup (make copies and store them in more than one place)
  5. Check (at least once a year try to make sure you can still access the files)
  6. Migrate (move files to the newest version of the software as it becomes available)

The Council of State Archivists has prepared a tip sheet to help people preserve their own digital records. It includes some of the same information in the video, but also gives suggestions on specific file formats: Survival Strategies for Personal Digital Records (pdf)

While they may seem commonplace now, electronic records will form the backbone of the historical record for researchers of the future. – Council of State Archivists, “10 Reasons Why Electronic Records Need Special Attention” (2014).

Records, now frequently in digital form, will be a large part of what the future knows about us. If we’d like to ensure that our own future (grandkids, friends, ourselves in 20 years, etc.) has access to our personal records, we need to take steps now. The six steps above are a great basic level of preservation using tools you may already have or can get easily. If you don’t have access to newer software (step 6) or won’t be able to keep up with a regular checking schedule (step 5), then doing steps 1 – 4 will still be very helpful in making sure that your most important records remain accessible.

Posted by: bishopae | October 9, 2014

CyPix: ISU Alumni Band

In honor of Homecoming, today’s image features the ISU Alumni Band, performing during the 1985 homecoming half-time show.

Iowa State University Alumni Band, where gold and black uniforms, create an "ISU" formation on the football field during the half-time show.

Alumni Band performing during the 1985 Homecoming football game half-time show. RS 21/2/G Box 1501.

The ISU Alumni Band Association was formed in 1981 by Kirk Hartung, a 1979 ISU alum. In collaboration with the marching band directors, he brought together 165 former marching band members from the graduating classes of 1927 to 1981. The band first performed together at the 1981 Homecoming football game, and has performed there every year since. Watch for them during this year’s game against Toledo on October 11!

More information on the ISU Alumni Band Association can be found in the organization’s Records (RS 21/2/4). Be sure to check out our Homecoming photo album on Flickr.

Posted by: Stephanie | October 6, 2014

Celebrate American Archives Month

Special Collections staff hard at work, RS 25

Special Collections staff hard at work, date unknown, RS 25

Every October is American Archives Month – a time to celebrate the work of archivists and the physical and digital items that benefit from our care. There are as many ways to celebrate Archives Month (or #archivesmonth, on Twitter) as there are archival repositories. Larger archival institutions have a full range of activities to showcase their work. The National Archives and Records Administration profiles staff members and favorite items throughout the month on social media. Smithsonian Institute Archives covers its work through a number of virtual and in-person opportunities. Here at ISU Special Collections, we celebrate by working: accepting university records and donated materials relating to our collecting areas; working with donors; processing materials; answering questions from the wide variety of folks who enlist our help; educating students through tours and classroom talks; and providing access to our collections through our website and Reading Room.

The Society of American Archivists, our professional organization, is observing Archives Month, of course. The association president, Kathleen Roe, recently wrote a blog post and asked the question “Who have you met on your journey through archival records?” She posed her question in reference to people whom she met through the historical record – such as the faculty and staff, students, and alumni whose collections we hold.

Special Collections Open House

The Special Collections reading room and exhibit space in 1971, RS 25/3

But as I sit in the Reading Room with a researcher hard at work and one of our student workers making preservation reproductions, I think of the meaningful interactions and lessons that I learn from the living people that I interact with in and around the archives. For example:

  • Students of all ages, from middle school on up to retirees who are curious about something and have the time to pop in. And of course academic scholars from ISU as well as other institutions who seek the rare and unique information that we hold. Even the questions that they ask, about the archives or about their interests, teach me lessons about my work all the time!
  • Our student workers, who bring their perspectives and questions to work every week. It’s nice to hear what student life is like in 2014 when I’m used to fielding questions and handling materials that are often older than today’s students.
  • Donors who generously hand their memories, or their loved ones’ memories, over for care-taking. It is a privilege to assess a lifetime’s worth of accumulated materials and process them to allow others to benefit from all the knowledge within.
  • Colleagues who have fielded my questions, encouraged and mentored me, introduced me to other archives colleagues in their network, and so on and so forth through the six degrees of separation between me and Kevin Bacon. No, wait, between me and famed archivist Theodore Roosevelt Schellenberg.
  • Archivists of the wider world who I meet through graduate school, or at regional conferences, or at the SAA Annual Meeting – which was held with two other records-centric organizations this year. There is an unending supply of new people to meet, share stories with, and learn from.

Much appreciation goes out to all those who make our work as archivists possible – especially the archivists ourselves. You can celebrate American Archives Month by coming by to see our new exhibit on Homecoming, doing research, or checking out all the resources we have available through our [newly updated] website!

Posted by: bishopae | September 30, 2014

CyPix: Veterinary Ambulance

This week’s featured photo comes from the early days of the School of Veterinary Medicine (now College of Veterinary Medicine) of Iowa State College (University). This veterinary ambulance was likely used to transport injured horse and cattle to the veterinary lab for treatment.

Black and white photograph show a hore-drawn wagon that is labeled "Veterinary Ambulance" standing in front of a building with snow on the ground.

Iowa State College Veterinary Medicine ambulance, circa 1912.

Iowa State University has been a leader in the field of veterinary medicine from the beginning. In 1879, what was then Iowa Agricultural College opened the first state-funded veterinary school in the country, offering a two-year program. Eight years later, it was expanded to a three-year program, and in 1903 became a four-year program, once again becoming the first in the country to offer such a program.

Want to find out more? Special Collections has several collections from the College of Veterinary Medicine. Also check out other Vet Med photos on our Flickr site.

Posted by: Stephanie | September 26, 2014

55 Years Ago, A Moment of Détente

Détente, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, means the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation. Fifty-five years ago on September 23, 1959, then-Premier of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev and his wife Nina spent a day on the Garst family farm in Coon Rapids, Iowa, slightly west of Des Moines. The appearance of the head of the Soviet Russian government in America during a long period of strained relations between the US and USSR looks a lot like détente – and we have the collections to prove it.

What aspects of this visit can Iowa State’s Special Collections department shed light on? In fact, Iowa State is home to a swath of materials that uncover the stories relating to the Garsts and of course this momentous visit. They include the Garst Family Papers (MS 579), the Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company (MS 173), the Garst Company (MS 642), and the Khrushchev Committee 50th Anniversary Event Records (MS 615). More collections that provide evidence of U.S.-Soviet relations are listed on this page of resources.

Khrushchevs and Garsts on the farm

Elizabeth and Roswell Garst, pictured center, on their farm with Nina and Nikita Khrushchev (RS 579)

The Garst Family Papers currently covers the period from 1860s up to 2012; we are still receiving donations from the Garst relatives. It documents the extended family and its history through photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and drawings related to various activities. These relate to the farm itself and the business that Roswell and Elizabeth co-owned with Charlie and Bertha Thomas, the Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company. Included in this are a number of photographs and photo albums that portray the Khrushchevs’ day on the farm, as well.

Iowa State also holds records from that Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company as well as the Garst Company. The hybrid corn company was founded in 1931 and eventually became ICI Seeds, Inc., in 1991. The records cover much of this history, dating from 1933 to 1973, and contains advertising materials, business records such as invoices and audits, and correspondence with banks, other companies, and customers. While they may seem a bit dry, these records do manage to convey some of what made Roswell Garst the man that he was in the 1950s when he became a known figure in the international agriculture arena. The Garst Company was a farming company that Roswell and Elizabeth’s three eldest children, Jane, Stephen, and David, started in 1941. The collection materials, which date from 1941 to 2004, document through correspondence and photographs the business, mainly its large beef cattle operation. Again, another window into the Garst family that provides evidence of their interests and work around the time of the Khrushchevs’ visit.

Red Boss eats first hot dog

A scrapbook page displays a clipping regarding the Khrushchevs’ visit to a meat packing plant in Des Moines, Iowa (MS 579)

A third related collection is the Khrushchev Committee 50th Anniversary Event Records, which document the work of a statewide committee that celebrated – as you can guess – the 50th anniversary of the visit in 2009. Thirty different organizations were involved in the commemoration, which also boasted involvement from Khrushchev’s son Sergei and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack. The collection documents the events with a number of different items, including materials for the attendees and press, schedules, news clippings, and event footage.

Our collections also boast audio and film related to the Garst family, on aspects of agriculture and business as well as this historic visit. See a list of these by searching ISU’s online library catalog for Garst film.

At this point in time when tensions between the United States and Russia are rising, I find it interesting to look back and see what events have affected international relations in the past. Let us know if you have any questions regarding the plethora of materials on this topic.

Posted by: Whitney | September 23, 2014

CyPix: Autumn on the Farm

Today marks the first full day of autumn – the equinox actually occurred last night. Some may be sad to see summer go, but I for one am more than ready for fall weather and all of the wonderful things that go along with it (pumpkin everything comes to mind). One of autumn’s most notable sights here in Iowa is that of combines plowing through golden fields of corn and soybeans.

Harvest is a busy time for farmers, full of long days and short nights. It’s also dangerous, with lots of large machinery and massive amounts of grain to work with. As it happens, this first week of autumn is also National Farm Safety and Health Week! Farm safety is an important issue to farmers and their families, and we farm kids had it instilled in us at a young age. Below is a great example of a child doing something he shouldn’t.

A child climbs up a crop conveyor belt that leads into the corn crib on the Irving Sorenson family farm - an example of what not to do during harvest time, 1953, RS 9/7/F.

A child climbs up a crop conveyor belt that leads into the corn crib on the Irving Sorenson family farm in Kelley, Iowa – an example of what not to do during harvest time, 1953, RS 9/7/F.

This and four other photos taken on the Irving Sorenson farm are mounted on a card labeled “Farm Safety,” so these photos were presumably used for farm safety education. The Sorenson farm photos are available on our Flickr page. We have several collections regarding farm safety, including the Norval J. Wardle Papers, the Wesley Fisher Buchele Papers, the Dale O. Hull Papers, the Iowa Farm Safety Council Records, and the Herbert Plambeck Papers. For more information, search through our website or ask us about our other holdings!

Posted by: Kim | September 19, 2014

A New Staff Member in Special Collections

Hi! I’m Kim and I’m the newest member of the Special Collections team.

Kim standing amongst collections

Me with some of our collections

I started in August as a new Archivist. I’ll be serving as the archives lead on digital materials as well as doing general “archivist stuff.” It’s an exciting time – we’re preparing to get a formal digital records program established. It will take some time to get everything in place so keep an eye out in our blog to see the latest developments. Digital records (sometimes used interchangeably with “e-records,” “electronic records,” or “born-digital”) are things with archival value that are originally in some digital form – e.g. e-mail, databases, web sites, Word documents, etc. The Library of Congress has some tips on how to maintain your own digital records:

I’m a California transplant. I grew up in the Central Valley and foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. I’m personally familiar with agriculture and rural life – so I’m seeing some familiar sights around Central Iowa. My high school was surrounded by orchards and berry fields. When I was little we had goats, ducks, and chickens and I ordered my school clothes out of a Sears Catalog at the general store/post office in Coarsegold. My mom grew up in Lee County, Iowa where my grandpa had a farm and raised corn, soybeans, and hogs. Even though I’m a Californian I grew up hearing all about Iowa and now I live here! I recently inherited my aunt’s recipes – six recipe boxes crammed full of hand-written recipe cards many of which she collected from the Donnellson (Iowa) newspaper. So, I’m bringing a little bit of Iowa back to Iowa with me. (Speaking of which, did you know we have a fabulous Iowa cook book collection?)

I’ve been around archives and libraries for a while now. I got my first library job in 1995 as a student worker in a curriculum library at Northern Arizona University (NAU) but switched to NAU’s Special Collections and Archives (SCA) two years later. At SCA I got to do a little bit of everything – processing manuscript and photograph collections, conservation (and preservation work (phase boxes, rebacking books, and more!), exhibit design and construction, and working with people – learning from donors, assisting researchers, and supervising students and volunteers. I’ve mostly stayed in Special Collections or University Archives except for a few brief stints at law libraries and police records.

I earned my B.A. in Humanities (minor in Anthropology) from NAU and my MLIS from University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA). I love university life and campus histories and I’m happiest being part of the rhythm of college campuses. While at UCLA I worked as historical researcher for a book project on UCLA’s history and served as author of the history of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. I also worked in the UCLA University Archives. I completed my time at UCLA when I earned my doctorate in Information Studies in 2011. My dissertation “Appraisal Learning Networks: How University Archivists Learn to Appraise through Social Interaction” received the ALISE/Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation award in 2013. I also spent six weeks in Australia last summer as a visiting scholar at Monash University and study abroad instructor learning about e-records and the Australian records continuum. My doctoral focus was archival studies and my sub-specialization was in the History of Science and Technology so working at the Special Collections at Iowa State is a perfect match for my interests!

Kim with Rosella

Me with a crimson rosella along the Great Ocean Road

For the past few years I’ve been serving as Archives Program Director and teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the archival studies area within the MLIS program. I’ve made the decision to return to practice and am very enthusiastic about the possibilities of this position. It’s a great team here. I hope you will visit us and see what we’re up to.

Posted by: Whitney | September 16, 2014

CyPix: Marching Band Season

Football season is in full swing, but let’s not forget about that musical ensemble that breathes life into that break between the two halves of every football game! Yes, it’s also marching band season, and halftime would not be the same without them. In the photo below, some sousaphone players are pictured blasting out the eardrums of two poor piccolo players (okay, it’s probably just posed) from our own marching band – the Iowa State University Cyclone Football “Varsity” Marching Band, or ISUCF’V’MB.

Sousaphone and piccolo players from the Iowa State University Cyclone Football "Varsity" Marching Band (ISUCF'V'MB), circa 1970s. RS 13/17/3

Sousaphone and piccolo players from the Iowa State University Cyclone Football “Varsity” Marching Band (ISUCF’V’MB), circa 1970s. RS 13/17/3

The band was first organized at Iowa State around 1879 or 1880. The Iowa State Band went on to play at the World’s Columbian Exposition, otherwise known as the World’s Fair, in Chicago in October 1892 for the dedication of the Iowa State Building. The band’s long tradition is still strong today, with a membership of more than 300 students.

More marching band photos are available here, as well as in the Special Collections Department. Interested in learning more about our fantastic marching band? Come in and have a look at our Marching Band Records, RS 13/7/3, a collection full of scrapbooks, documents, and artifacts, in addition to photographs.

Posted by: Stephanie | September 12, 2014

Pumpkins and Pies in Special Collections

And the pumpkin pie in its covered place
Makes you wish for it so, that you have the grace
To lift the cover and flee with the pie
– “A Parody on ‘Green River,'” Jessie A. Connor in the 1895 Bomb (p. 149)

image (3)

A page from Erwin’s 1927 article, “A Systematic Study of Squashes and Pumpkins,” from collection RS 9/16/16

It’s autumn! Well, it’s almost autumn, as the equinox that marks the end of summer falls on September 22. With autumn arrives all the great comfort foods of the season. I will not speak for you, but in my mind, mashed potatoes, homemade applesauce, and squashes of all shapes and sizes come running to the forefront. What do these delicious things have to do with the archives?

Arthur Thomas Erwin (1874-1970) was a professor of horticulture who taught at Iowa State from 1901 until 1915 before researching vegetables as a staff member of the Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station for 40-plus years. As part of this work, he helped classify the various species of squash, pumpkins, and peppers. We have a box of his papers (collection RS 9/16/16) that sheds some light on his discoveries. Article titles include “Notes on Some of the Newer Vegetables” (1937), “The Peppers” (1932), and “A Systematic Study of Squashes and Pumpkins” (1927). If you are more likely to read an article than bake a pie, one of these might be your chosen reading material.


Two cookbooks from Special Collections’ rare and archival bookshelves that feature fall desserts

For people who are more of the pie-making type, we have plenty of recipes waiting for you in Special Collections. An obvious source of information is our cookbook collection. Information about the collection is available through this online exhibit and the books are all in the library catalog when you enter the phrase Cooking – Iowa into the search box. Not every cookbook will have a recipe for pumpkins or other squashes, of course, but many do. In her book Sweets Without Sugar, Marion White offers recipes with various sugars that aren’t the run-of-the-mill white stuff. The book jacket explains: “Plain granulated sugar, though easy to use and inexpensive to buy, offers little to the diet… it is harder to digest that the ‘simple sugars’ found in natural fruits and provided in honey, syrups, and molasses.” In White’s recipe for Pumpkin Pie, my go-to fall creation, she simply substitutes 1c of plain sugar with maple syrup. Sounds delicious! I’ll be giving this a try in my oven this pumpkin season.

Special Collections also holds copies of books that are written or edited by University faculty, so that section of our materials boasts a few cookbooks as well. I was both wary and delighted to see a 1998 book, Vegetable Desserts: Beyond Carrot Cake and Pumpkin Pie, by now-retired Professor of Nutrition Elisabeth Schafer and Jeannette Miller, a registered dietician. The book is helpfully arranged by vegetable: chapters include beans, jicama – a tuber that is similar to a turnip, and, more familiarly, rhubarb. A number of the recipes include squash and pumpkins in particular, including a Pumpkin Tofu Pie that… well, seems to be a pumpkin pie with added tofu. Considering how popular links that advertise “cookie dough that is made with chickpeas” and “brownies made with black beans” are on Pinterest, I think Vegetable Desserts could make a comeback. My coworkers are going to be taste-testing cocoa lentil cake with cocoa mocha frosting at some point – I’m too curious not to try it.

So go forth and bake – or research – away the autumn, friends. Make a visit Special Collections for inspiration in either!

Posted by: bishopae | September 9, 2014

CyPix: Driver training in the 1930s

When cars began replacing carriages on American roads in the early 20th century, there was no formal system for educating new drivers, and, not surprisingly, the accident rate was high. A. R. Lauer was an Associate Professor in Psychology, who came to Iowa State College (University) in 1930 and performed research on driving safety. By the mid-1930s, Lauer was involved in cooperative work with the Motor Vehicle Department for the State of Iowa.

Nine students sit in individual dummy cars (with steering wheels and controls but no wheels) in a large classroom, while a teacher lectures from the front of the classroom pointing to a projected image of a car.

Students in driver training course sitting in dummy cars while a teacher lectures at the front of the classroom, 1938. University Photo Collection, Box 781.

In 1938, ISC’s President Charles E. Friley requested that the Psychology Department begin a driver education program for future teachers of driver’s training classes in public schools, and the program quickly became in high demand. Both the research and the training programs had a definite impact on the safety of Iowa roads. The following chart from Lauer’s report, Development of the driver education and research program at Iowa State College, shows a clear downward trend in the number of fatalities on Iowa highways from 1935 through 1955:

Line graph showing a clear downward trend in fatalities in Iowa from 1935 throug 1955.

Chart showing “Trend in Fatality Rates for Iowa” from A.R. Lauer’s report.


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